Stress: What can you do about it?
What makes a doctor stressed and what can he or she do about it?
You may feel stressed because of what you perceive as an excessive workload, so you work very long hours. You've noticed how this pattern affects your home life, especially your relationships with your family and friends.
You've experienced the stress of keeping to government targets, especially when this means you have to persuade patients of the importance of having screening tests or examinations. Although this could result in discovering pathology it also means an increase in time spent with each patient, investigations and subsequent treatment.
Unrealistic demands from patients raise your level of stress too. These means time taken to explain why what the patient is requesting is not indicated. Sometimes you may give in and then feel the stress of doing something which may not be in the patient's best interests.
There is, too, the gremlin sitting on your shoulder, nudging you about possible litigation and asking you whether you've done the right thing, in case the patient decides to sue you.
When you feel well and unstressed you can deal with all of these things in a relaxed and professional way, but what can you do to move from stress to confidence and calmness?
Ways to reduce your stress levels are simple. The strategies listed below may seem like common sense and some of them are just that. They are probably things you know already and may even be advising your stressed patients to do these already.
1.Stop caffeine: this has a huge effect on stress levels. Limit caffeine to one cup or less a day and notice how your stress decreases.
2.Learn to relax. Do this at least once a day. Arrange to have a gap, a 5- 10 minutes each day, when you can sit quietly. This could be when you take a break in the middle of the day, or in your office between patients. Its fine to do this sitting in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes and start with your feet, think about each area of your body, and consciously tense the muscles and then relax them.
3.Take relaxing breaths whenever you feel the stress rising. Take a slow breath in, to a count of five, as you think about breathing in relaxation, then a slow breath out as you think about breathing out any tension in your body.
4.Do some regular exercise: walking for 20-30 minutes each day either from your car, bus or train, to your place of work, or by going outside in your lunch hour - not only to have something to eat away from your desk and patients but also to have a walk.
5.Eat more healthy foods, which means eating more complex carbohydrates and cutting down on sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Eat a Mediterranean type diet, with more fish and less saturated fats.
However simple as they seem to be, they work. So take yourself in hand and resolve to try the following five strategies until they become new automatic habits for you. To become automatic you may have to repeat something new for 21 days. So make a chart with these five habits listed and tick them each day you succeed in doing them. You could also log your level of stress each day on a scale of 1 to 10 and notice the improvement.
Susan E Kersley www.thedoctorscoach.co.uk